Following much anticipation, Apple has at last lifted the covers on its new iPad Mini – a much smaller version of its market-leading tablet – the iPad.

Boasting a display screen measuring a mere 20 cm (7.5 inches) and a thickness of just 7.2 mm, the iPad Mini is half the size of a standard iPad. Helped by an overall weight of just 0.3kg, just one hand is all that is needed to hold the new device.

The new launch is seen by many analysts as an attempt by Apple to secure its market lead in the face of competition from two mini tablet rivals – the Kindle Fire from Amazon and the Nexus 7 tablet from Google.

Despite being more expensive than its rivals – $329 (£269 for UK consumers) versus $249 for the Nexus 7, and $159 for a lower end Kindle Fire model – commentators point out that Apple already boasts 70 per cent of the tablet market, and many claim that the launch of the iPad Mini is likely to succeed in entrenching this dominant position.

Senior vice-president of worldwide marketing at Apple, Phil Schiller, asserted this view at the official launch of the iPad Mini:

“Others have tried to make tablets smaller than the iPad and they have failed miserably.”

Meanwhile, Tim Cook, the company’s chief executive, has drawn attention to what he sees as the iPad’s already overwhelming grip on the tablet market – describing 100 million sales of the standard device to date as:

“Unprecedented for a new product in this category.”

The iPad has been on the market since April 2010.